The best shows at the 2013 Edinburgh Festivals

  • Edinburgh Festival Guide
  • 16 July 2013

This article is from 2013

The best shows at the 2013 Edinburgh Festivals

Whatever Gets You Through the Night / credit: Jannica Honey

20 must-see highlight shows from the 2013 festival programmes, covering Fringe, Books, International, Art and Jazz festivals

We've scanned the thousands of shows, exhibitions and events across the festival in late July, August and early September, and highlight the ones that simply cannot be missed

Man Ray
See classic shots from a landmark 20th century photographer who had a serious handle on the celebrity game.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, until 22 Sep.

Whatever Gets You Through the Night
Cora Bissett's show fuses theatre and music for a multimedia extravaganza.
Queen's Hall, 20–25 Aug.

The Orb
The duo who have helped shape modern electronica play a show which will feature some of their glorious crowd-pleasing hits.
Leith Links, 1 Sep.

Margaret Atwood
The 2000 Booker winner is here for a series of events including a look at the dark side of Scottish literature.
Charlotte Square Gardens, 24–26 Aug.

Dance Odysseys
Eight shows curated by Scottish Ballet focus on blurring the divides between dance forms. Featuring world premieres, historical genre-changers, celluloid classics and some of the form's newest and most exciting dance voices, this series explores dance in a brand new way.
Festival Theatre, 16–19 Aug.

Fiona Banner
The Vanity Press from this popular YBA is an art exhibition that focuses on the power of words.
Summerhall, 2 Aug–27 Sep.

Proving that James Joyce's unstageable novel can work in theatre, the Tron company deliver the goods.
Paterson's Land, 9–26 Aug.

The Book Festival gets serious about graphic novels with a strand on the literary side of comics.
Charlotte Square Gardens, 10–26 Aug.

Alexei Sayle
His wife may be worried about his legacy but it's perfectly safe as the Alternative Comedy icon returns.
The Stand, 13–25 Aug.

American Lulu
Angel Blue pulls off a stunning performance in the tale of a harsh woman from Alban Berg's unfinished 1934 opera. Radically reworked for the 21st century, and set against the backdrop of the US civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s, the opera transports audiences to the smoky jazz clubs of the Deep South.
King's Theatre, 30 & 31 Aug.

The fabulous musical improv group do it for the kids with their spontaneous and hilarious Family Hour.
Gilded Balloon Teviot, 2–13 Aug.

Tia Fuller
Beyoncé's sax player steps into the limelight with the keynote gig of this year's Jazz Festival. Fuller grew up listening to John Coltrane and Charlie Parker in her parents' basement before cutting her teeth on the New York scene, and now she brings a swinging, bop-based band to Edinburgh for a much-anticipated festival debut.
Queen's Hall, 19 Jul.

The innovative French comedy/theatre/music troupe hilariously tell their story to a backdrop of mimed songs and reconstructed film clips.
Underbelly, 31 Jul–26 Aug.

The Wooster Group
The innovative New York theatre team do Hamlet as you've never seen it before. By remixing film footage of a legendary 1964 John Gielgud production starring Richard Burton, The Wooster Group attempt to reconstruct a challenging, hypothetical theatre piece for a live audience.
Lyceum Theatre, 10–13 Aug.

James Cousins
One of the true rising stars in dance brings his own company to the Fringe for a show based on Murakami's novel Norwegian Wood.
Zoo Southside, 19–26 Aug.

Festival of Politics
Organisers have shifted the FoP focus to make more use of the parliament building.
Scottish Parliament, 23–25 Aug.

Kate Tempest
Brand New Ancients has poet and rapper Tempest whipping up, yes you guessed it, a storm.
Traverse Theatre, 20–25 Aug.

Badac Theatre
Another stirring bit of site-specific theatre from the people behind The Factory as they explore the death of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
Summerhall, 2–25 Aug.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
This August's Tattoo celebrates the Year of Natural Scotland.
Edinburgh Castle, 2–24 Aug.

Bobby Mair
The young Canadian has supported Jerry Sadowitz and Doug Stanhope, which gives you a sense of his brand of stand-up.
The Tron, 1–25 Aug.

Whatever Gets You Through The Night: Edinburgh Fringe 2013

2013 Dance Odysseys

2013 Hamlet

La Comédie Musiculte - Teaser 2013

Edinburgh Mela

World music, dance, fashion, food and fun. During the week the Mela takes over various venues around Leith.

Alexei Sayle

  • 5 stars

Doyen of the alt.comedy scene, off on tour for the first time in years.

Dance Odysseys

  • 4 stars

This festival within a festival celebrates the breadth of ballet from classic to contemporary. Featuring a diverse mixture of world premières, including work from Scottish Ballet, Scottish Dance Theatre and Gelabert Azzopardi Companyia de Dansa.


In 1964 Richard Burton performed on Broadway in John Gielgud’s acclaimed production of Hamlet. Recorded in live performance from 17 camera angles, the resulting film was shown for only two days in 2,000 cinemas across the United States. The idea of bringing a live theatre experience to thousands of viewers in different…

American Lulu

Seductress, victim, manipulator: Lulu lives off men as both tortured and torturer, purveyor of ecstasy and angel of death. Caught up in greedy games and seedy schemes, and surrounded by lovers driven to despair, Lulu makes an inexorable rise to the highest levels of power, money and fame. But her descent is just as swift.

Man Ray Portraits

Man Ray was an American original. He was a painter, a photographer, a maker of Dadaist readymades, a scene-maker and the man responsible for some of the wittiest and most pungent artworks of the modernist era. He's also the man originally responsible for putting a camera in the hands of Lee Miller, for which documentary…

Tia Fuller

Festival debut for super-charged American saxophone star with her big swinging, bop–based, all female band. A young lion on the New York jazz scene, a long time member of Beyoncé’s band, and now musical director with Esperanza Spalding. Fuller’s band play some of the most exciting music on the current US scene, packed…


  • 3 stars

Underbelly Productions. After over 182 (and a half) shows presented throughout the world, from New York City to Paris via your sister's basement, Airnadette, the biggest air band in the galaxy, is ready to storm Edinburgh. This is an hour of unbelievable pop culture entertainment, where six unstoppable musicians dub the…

Brand New Ancients

'The gods are in the betting shops, the gods are in the café. / The gods can’t afford the deposit on their flat … / Winged sandals tearing up the pavement. / Me, you, everyone, brand new ancients.' Poet and rapper Kate Tempest tells an everyday epic over an exhilarating live score played by tuba, cello, violin, drums and…


‘I am a fool perhaps. Boylan gets the plums and I get the plum stones. My youth. Never again. Gibraltar. Evenings like this looking out over the sea, she told me, but clear, no clouds. Said she always thought she'd marry a lord or a gentleman with a private yacht. Why me?’ While his wife Molly waits in bed for the…

Margaret Atwood

The Man Booker prize-winning Canadian author Margaret Atwood launched The Year of the Flood with a bravura performance at the Book Festival four years ago. Now she returns, having completed the trilogy she started with Oryx & Crake. In the near-future world of the much-anticipated MaddAddam, a man-made plague has…

Bobby Mair

Offbeat and aggressive humour from Mair – who's been gracing your tellyboxes recently on 8 Out of 10 Cats, Russell Howard's Good News and Seann Walsh's Late Night Comedy Spectacular.

Showstoppers' Family Hour

  • 4 stars

Showstopper Productions - Festival Highlights. Brilliant, family friendly, musical comedy improvisation based on audience ideas! Spirit of the Fringe Award winner. 'Not only is each performance achingly funny, it's a genuinely new musical every time. Top class creativity in action' ★★★★★ (Time Out). 'A blast. Makes your…

Whatever Gets You Through the Night

Scotland’s most distinctive writers and musicians (including Errors, Ricky Ross, Alan Bissett, Rachel Sermanni, Withered Hand, RM Hubbert, Emma Pollock and Stef Smith) and you: a nation of people, awake in the dark, waiting for the light to come. This ambitious multimedia performance, created by Cora Bissett, Swimmer One…


  • 4 stars

Badac Theatre Company / Escalator East to Edinburgh. Set in and around a lift, the location of her death, Badac's new piece follows the life, work and assassination of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Exploring her exposure of human rights abuses committed during the second Russian/Chechnya war and its aftermath.